The Welcome Visitor

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 16 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 16 May, 2010, 12:00am

The Welcome Visitor
by John Humphrys and Dr Sarah Jarvis
Hodder, HK$104

BBC journalist John Humphrys chose the title of his book in the hope of relieving the guilt some people feel for regarding death as a welcome visitor. His argument, and that of his general practitioner and co-writer, Dr Sarah Jarvis, is that we should have some control over our fate. Humphrys knew many others felt like him after fans of his Today programme, which had broadcast reports on euthanasia, contacted him to say they feared having no say in how their lives ended. Different perspectives are presented - from a doctor's and a layman's viewpoint - although both also write personal accounts of the deaths of loved ones: Jarvis' mother had 'a good death' because she saw passing as a part of life and she had three weeks, after a diagnosis of stomach cancer, to say goodbye; Humphrys' father, afflicted by dementia, had what his son describes as an undignified end. Story upon story is told, sometimes in a detached manner, to show different attitudes to prolonging life. The book should persuade readers to think about why people are kept alive and what to do when there is no sensible reason for them to continue suffering.